During the last CBA negotiation between NFL owners and the NFLPA, players almost unanimously panned the idea of an 18-game regular season.
But with the agreement struck in July of 2011 set to expire after the 2020 season, the idea of lengthening the season is poking its head out of the sand once again.
And there may be more traction for it this time around.
During last week’s minicamp, I asked Tom Brady about it. I didn’t frame the question very well, leading the witness by saying, “How much damage would an 18-game season do to players?”
Brady didn’t readily agree to the direction I was headed.
“It depends how you take care of yourself,” he said. “That’s how I see it. I think your ability to play, your ability to practice is as good as your ability to recover. So if you can’t recover, I think a six-game schedule is hard. I try to focus on the recovery of things and try to be out here every day in practice. I know it takes a level of focus and commitment to do that. There’s a lot of work in advance that needs to be done to make that happen. So … I love football.”
Brady is evangelical about health and the idea it’s attainable for everyone if they commit to the process.
The business and science of training, nutrition, rest and recovery are going to be the centerpiece of his post-football professional life. So maybe his response shouldn’t have surprised me. And the “so … I love football,” comment seemed to be a request to bring it on.
Some rank-and-file players might sniff at Brady’s stance. He plays quarterback and – while it’s the most vulnerable position on the field – it’s also the most protected and the collision quotient is a lot lower than linemen, linebackers, running backs, etc. Brady also figures to be out of the league for the bulk of the new agreement (figures to be) so he wouldn’t have to deal with the ramifications.
But the money to be made from two extra games and the utter uselessness of a four-game preseason ensure this isn’t going away.
And another quarterback (albeit a former one) said last week there’s a groundswell of support from the PLAYERS to make the change.
“If you put it up to a vote by the NFL players, it’ll overwhelmingly go over and say yes,” Phil Simms said on his son Chris Simms’ “Unbuttoned” podcast. “Some of the elite quarterbacks and a few players, no. Well yeah, you’re making 25 and 30 million. But the guys that are making a million or less . . . two more game checks? Are you kidding me? Think about what those checks look like and how much that is and how much of a difference it makes in their lives.”
While Simms may sense support among players, the percentage of players in favor will never match the percentage of owners who would be unanimous in wanting more product to sell to the networks, fans, etc.
So it may shape up to be an actual bargaining chip instead of the non-starter it’s seemed to be in the past. If the players want weed restrictions relaxed and unilateral disciplinary power taken away from the commissioner, let’s play 18.
“The players probably won’t have much say in it. It’ll probably be a select few players with their [executive] committee and DeMaurice Smith,” Simms predicted. “If you put it up to vote, there’s no doubt the players would vote to go 18 games. I do think it’s heading that way. Just think when the owners get into all of this. Two more weeks of TV money. TV would want it too. Just because it’s the greatest thing on every network. I never thought it would come about but …last year, you know I love watching preseason games. It was awful.”
As opposed to 2011 when there was a 132-day lockout before a resolution was reached, these negotiations could be smoother. Both sides are doing well financially as the salary cap keeps shooting upward and the owner/player rancor that flowed from 2016 to 2018 seems to have subsided for now.
The idea a deal could be struck before this season begins has even been floated. Unlikely though that may be, expect to see all these topics come to the fore in the next few months and the 18-game proposal become a major part of the negotiations.
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